Tuesday, October 28, 2008

lady di

By Adrian Walker, Boston Globe Columnist
There didn't seem to be anything unusual about the call I got from Dianne Wilkerson last July complaining about City Hall.
After lengthy negotiations, the city had agreed to issue new liquor licenses. Wilkerson was outraged, she told me, because Roxbury had not gotten its fair share of the new licenses, stifling constituents of hers who wanted to open businesses. I eventually wrote a column arguing that the process of granting licenses was tilted toward the politically influential.
Now comes the US Attorney's Office with the rest of the story. Wilkerson was allegedly being paid off to secure a liquor license for a club called Deja Vu, to be located in Roxbury. The feds allege that Wilkerson was getting paid to pressure City Hall to get her associate a license. Her call to me was a part of the campaign.
The government today released pictures, embarrassing ones, of Wilkerson taking money from an alleged informant and stuffing it down her bra. Pictures of her smiling and counting money.
There is said to be video as well. She is innocent until proven guilty, of course. But I defy anyone to look at her counting her earnings and say they believe in her innocence.
This all occurs as Wilkerson is waging a sticker campaign to cling to the seat to which she was first elected 16 years ago. She was almost certainly going to lose to Sonia Chang-Diaz anyway, tired as her constituents were of forgiving her flaws and foibles. She must suspend that campaign immediately, if she has an ounce of common sense left. She cannot possibly present herself to voters as a plausible representative of their interests.
This indictment follows a string of missteps: Her guilty plea in 1997 on federal tax charges, numerous state campaign finance violations, and a pending effort to disbar her for lying under oath. But even those charges pale in comparison to taking money to game the political system for personal gain. This is not about disorganization. This is about being a garden-variety crook.
When politicians get caught in schemes like this one, people often ask, 'How did they expect to get away with that?' I think that's the wrong question. The better question is 'How did they convince themselves that this was OK?"
In Wilkerson's case, a partial answer can be found in the affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Krista L. Corr. In it, Wilkerson is allegedly captured on tape telling one of her benefactors, "I am a firm believer in the notion that you can do good and do well at the same time." The notion that the means can be justified by the ends is always close at hand when politicians go rotten.
For years, Wilkerson's supporters have explained away her woes by arguing that her personal problems never affected her performance in office. I have argued myself that Wilkerson has been an effective advocate for her constituents, warts and all.
Barring complete exoneration, that last line of defense has just melted away. Taking bribes is at the heart of her performance in office; indeed, it overrides any good she may have done over the past 16 years. The lasting image of her will be of stuffing marked bills in her bra in the shadow of the State House.
The day after Wilkerson settled her tax case in 1997, I wrote the following on the front page of the Globe: "State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, once considered one of the bright stars of Boston politics, instead entered its rogues' gallery yesterday, agreeing to plead guilty to federal tax charges."
Little did I know what an understatement those words would become.

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